Letters to SAR: November 1999
By Dan Shea
I enjoyed your article concerning your visit to the NDIA conference and the live fire demonstration that obviously was impressive to those attending.
Please note that under the photograph of the “STRIKER” 40mm Grenade weapon on page 64, reference is made to SDI developing and manufacturing this gun, the M60, M2 and Mk 19 weapons. As a matter of clarification, SDI did not develop the M60, M2 or Mk 19. This credit should be reserved for Springfield Armory, John M. Browning and the United States Navy. As for the “STRIKER”, credit should be reserved for the late Eugene Stoner and his staff at ARES, Port Clinton.
J. Stephen Sarles
Duly noted and appropriately corrected, we hope. All those whose minds were misled by our caption, please signal acknowledgement with a long burst on a US beltfed. Most John Browning designs would seem appropriate
First let me congratulate all those at SAR for being responsible for a continuing quality product. The cynicism & petty fear of losing a few bucks that I saw at the publications inception seems largely to have died a natural death. Those who complain about the odd article on beer steins, toys or tank museums are forgetting that ‘Man does not live on bread alone’ and the wide world of small arms is very wide indeed. So long as there is at least one informative and well-written piece in SAR I shall count my South Pacific Peso’s well spent. To date they have been well spent many times over with each issue.
What prompts me to put finger to keyboard this time is “No Place To Hide- The OICW Goes To War” by Charles Sweda (SAR Vol.2 No.9). I write because the article is totally uncritical and appears to have come direct from HK’s PR department or from JSSAP.
Whether the OICW is the greatest boon to the infantry since heeled boots or whether it is just another technology demonstrating toy is irrelevant. By ‘critical’ I don’t mean a hatchet job but simply a knowledgeable and hard look at the system- pointing out it’s faults as well as it’s good points in an unbiased fashion. Charles Sweda did none of this.
Some examples are now in order:
-On page 46 is a bar graph comparing OICW recoil to that of a M-14 & M-16. The text states that the recoil of the OICW is 1/3 that of the M-14. The representative bar on the graph is almost 25% that of the M-14- an old advertising trick.
-Also on page 46 is a comparison with the M-4A1 & M-16A4 titled ‘OICW Bottom Line’. The cost of the AR-15 derivative is listed as being about USD$35,000 and mass’s about 24.37 pounds. It seems that figure is calculated by factoring in every possible accessory for the M-4A1/M-16A4- including the expensive & heavy Texas Instruments TI. This is not a valid comparison and again is an old technique from the advertising game.
-’OICW Bottom Line’ also states that the OICW expends 34 rounds for the loss of one friendly to kill a 9 man squad, while the AR-15 derivative expends 1683 rounds with the loss of 71 freindlies to do the same job. It beats me how those nine hostiles managed to kill/incapacitate 71 friendlies before being polished off by the survivors- or even how this was calculated. However, if you want to play that game, consider this: how many rounds would a 2 man sniper team require to kill that same 9 man enemy squad? Should we then make M-24 or AW the standard issue weapon?
-The possible spin-offs from the OICW program needed to be examined rather than an ‘all or nothing’ approach. This is important for it is spin-offs that the OICW programs predecessors (for example the SPIW & ACR programs) are notable for. If the OICW 20mm munitions are so effective (measured against 40x46mm), then why not a reworked M-230 chambered for it? If the optical sight is lighter, cheaper, etc than those it is being compared to, then mount them on the issue weapons and achieve a drastic reduction in system cost & mass.
There are other examples in the article but these will serve to illustrate my point.
So to sum: “No Place To Hide- The OICW Goes To War” seems to be based entirely on non-critical material provided by the manufacturer or JSSAP program managers. The author seems to have made no attempt to provide any balance to this or to present additional research on the topic. I have found it hard to see any difference between this article and one crafted by HK as part of a PR campaign for their product.
Articles by the manufacturer, distributor or program manager on the topic of their products are always welcome- so long as that is what they are presented has. However, it is the type of material represented by “No Place To Hide” that SAR has to be very cautious of- not colour photo essays on badges or characters blindly over-enthusing about their pet toys. Why? Because it is the difference between just another hack gun glossy and a World-class small arms journal.
No apologies coming from me for this one, Peter. The readers of SAR should be aware that Peter is highly respected in the small arms community, and I don’t take this criticism lightly. However, I am not about to run around the office, shouting “Lop off the head of the dolt who allowed this in SAR”, because I carefully reviewed this article, approved it, and edited it. The buck stops here.
If you look at articles in the general gun press from the 1950’s and 1960’s, beside the fun stuff and the proverbial puff pieces, you will note what I call “Vision” pieces. Stories on the AR-10 and AR-15 that read like science fiction. These were attempts to get the idea of what a new system was supposed to do out to the general public, that is the general public that has an interest in shooting or military affairs. These vision pieces served a purpose, and I believe they do today as well.
We are not talking about the newest Colt pistol here, that our readers are attempting to purchase. We are talking about the newest concept our military is fielding in small arms. I am on record as a critic of the system, and have been publicly lambasted by some of the boosters of the OICW when I confronted them with my “Naysaying”. Those who know me can imagine the form THAT was done in, with some biting sarcasm and comments to the effect of “Oh my, you really CAN manage to get the majority of that small amount of shrapnel to come downward instead of going in the full 360 degree spread, even though this projectile is spinning at ... hmmm ... 100,000 rpm... Oh, well, it will eventually ALL come down due to Mr. Newton and his friend Mr. Gravity...”. Well, there are a lot of people who are critical of the system, but most don’t have any idea of exactly WHAT the JSSAP objective is. This article does a really good job of explaining that.
I have stood by this through the small storm of controversy that has been out there, and listened to the negatives and the positives. I stand by it, and also pledge to continue with other articles that are looking at the negative sides of the project. More importantly, it is the desire of all of us at SAR to continue to bring information to the readers. Sometimes it is going to take this form, and what I have now learned is to put a prelude paragraph on it, warning people that it is a Vision Thing. And, regarding those 71 friendlies, I had just assumed they meant “Collaborators”
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